By Sam Russell, PA

A three-year-old boy was run over and killed by a pick-up truck used by his father after the ignition key was accidentally turned while the vehicle was still in gear, an inquest has heard.

Anthony Pritchard-Allen, known as AJ, had been taken by his mother Tanya Allen to visit his father Joseph Pritchard at the end of his shift at the farm where he worked near Soham, Cambridgeshire.

Assistant coroner Simon Milburn told Tuesday's hearing in Huntingdon that this was a "fairly regular occurrence" as Mr Pritchard worked long hours as a gamekeeper.

He said that while Ms Allen left the farm for a "very brief period" Mr Pritchard went to refuel a Toyota Hilux pick-up truck from a tank in the farmyard.

"It seems that during this refuelling process the vehicle was left in gear and when the ignition was subsequently turned on the Toyota moved forward, striking AJ who was stood in front of it," Mr Milburn said.

The coroner said it is not the role of an inquest to attribute blame and the hearing was not told detail of who turned the ignition.

The HSE said no-one other than Mr Pritchard was working on the site at the time.

AJ was taken to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge where he was pronounced dead at 9pm on April 20 last year. He was struck at around 7.30pm.

A post-mortem examination recorded his medical cause of death as blunt traumatic injuries to the head, chest and abdomen.

The inquest, which was heard with a jury as the incident happened at a place of work, concluded that AJ's death was an accident.

Farm owner Nigel Howe said that the farm vehicle was for use by all workers but was predominantly used by Mr Pritchard.

He described Mr Pritchard, who lived three quarters of a mile from the pheasant breeding farm, as an "excellent worker".

Pc Simon Burgin, a forensic collision investigator, said: "I believe AJ was towards the front of the vehicle and the ignition sequence has begun."

He said AJ was first struck by the truck's number plate then forced under the vehicle and run over by its offside rear tyre.

The truck's handbrake had been left off, he said, adding: "It's not unusual, particularly with farm vehicles.

"They don't tend to use the handbrake; they leave them in gear. It's something that they do."

He said that tests were carried out on the pick-up truck after the accident and it was found that it would propel itself forward unaided if the ignition key was turned while the vehicle was left in first or second gear.

No mechanical defects were found.

Mr Burgin confirmed to the coroner that no offences were being investigated.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Roxanne Barker said: "No-one else was working on the farm at this time of day."

She said no health and safety breaches were identified.

Mr Milburn expressed his condolences to AJ's family, including his mother and father who attended the hearing.

Speaking after the hearing, AJ's mother Ms Allen described her son as an "outdoor boy" who "loved being outside with tractors, dogs, horses, digging in mud, anything that included getting messy".

"He loved seeing the birds hatch from an egg and growing up," she said. "He loved helping his dad do all the work chores."

She continued: "Every day is a painstaking reminder of what life could have been.

"We want to thank all our close friends and family for their continued support and love.

"We wish every day that our little boy was still here to keep us all laughing and living at 100 miles an hour.

"We miss him so much and now know that he was only leant to us and we couldn't keep him.

"Our family unit is a little less now but we will forever love and miss our beautiful little man."